The Wabtec works in Doncaster and Loughborough are currently refurbishing and converting 60 Porterbrook-owned former Gatwick Express class 460s in order to provide additional capacity on the Windsor line from Hounslow, Weybridge, Reading and Windsor.
South West Trains’ engineering director Christian Roth told the Rail Media Group: “This project is more complex compared to just buying more Desiros, which would be relatively straight forward, as when you start chopping trains around issues such as corrosion have to be the addressed before the vehicles can be reassembled.”
When asked why the decision was made to convert the 460s and not buy new trains, Mr Roth replied: “From an industry cost perspective it is better to modify the class 460s as opposed to building new trains as introducing new trains would cost around twice as much.”
As part of the £42 million project the class 458/5s, as they will be known once they are reformed with South West Trains’ existing 458 units to form 38×5 car sets, are being re-geared from 125 mph to 75 mph. The first set is expected to be delivered to Wimbledon depot in late May/early June and will enter passenger service approximately six weeks after delivery.
Doncaster is carrying out work on the trailer vehicles with Loughborough concentrating on the driving cars. These are having their distinctive ‘Darth Vadar’ noses replaced with something flatter in appearance. The four spare driving cars will, once they have been stripped for spares, most likely be scrapped, although there is the possibility that at least one body shell may be retained to provide a spare vehicle should it be needed to replace one damaged in an accident.